DUP tells European Commission VP ‘not to lecture unionists’ ahead of Stormont meeting

Party says Maros Sefcovic’s position on Northern Ireland protocol ‘defies logic’

The DUP has told European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic his position on the Northern Ireland protocol defies logic

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has told European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic his position on the Northern Ireland protocol “defies logic” ahead of his appearing before a Stormont committee.

In an unusual move accepting cross-examination by a regional assembly, Mr Sefcovic will be questioned by members of Stormont's Executive Office Committee on Monday over post-Brexit arrangements that have angered unionists.

DUP MLA Diane Dodds, a member of the committee and the North’s former economy minister, said Mr Sefcovic must “stop ignoring the views of unionists regarding the Northern Ireland protocol”.

Ms Dodds said there will be “little point” in Mr Sefcovic “lecturing unionists about the protocol” when he appears before the committee.

READ MORE

“Stability is best secured in Northern Ireland when there is broad support. Yet, not one single unionist MLA is a cheerleader for the protocol, but Maros Sefcovic still argues that it is the best outcome for Northern Ireland. The EU position defies logic,” she said.

Responding to her remarks on Sunday, Fine Gael’s European affairs spokesman, Neale Richmond, said: “Do you know what defies logic? Campaigning for the hardest possible Brexit, ignoring all the problems it presents, providing no solutions then trying to blame the EU, repeatedly.”

Alliance Party deputy leader and North Down MP Stephen Farry said the “approach of the DUP to the entire Brexit process has defied logic”.

Reacting on Twitter, he added: “From supporting Brexit in the first place, to pursuing hard Brexit, rejecting all alternatives, and making [the] Protocol an identity issue”.

SDLP South Down MLA Colin McGrath, chairman of the Stormont Executive Office Committee, said he will be telling Mr Sefcovic that a majority of MLAs were against Brexit and then supported mitigation arrangements “which the DUP trashed and have left us with the Protocol”.

The protocol is an agreement between the UK and the EU and “the thought that a minority party in one region can control that is folly”, Mr McGrath told the BBC’s Sunday Politics.

The post-Brexit arrangements, which have created a de facto trade border between the North and Britain, is there because the DUP “dismissed” every other alternative, he added.

Sinn Féin East Derry MLA Caoimhe Archibald said constant calls from unionism for the protocol to be scrapped are “not based in reality”.

Meanwhile, Northern secretary Brandon Lewis said he is “cautiously optimistic” the EU will extend a grace period for fresh meat moving from Britain to the North within the coming days.

But London has still not “formally heard” from Brussels about the expected move just days before the existing grace period runs out on Wednesday in the so-called sausage war.

“I’m always cautiously optimistic around these things,” Mr Lewis said. “We have put in and asked for that extension. We think that is a logical sensible thing.

“The EU now, Mr Sefcovic and his team, have said we all need to be pragmatic and sensible, and our point is we have heard a lot about wanting to be pragmatic and sensible, let’s now see that in action.”

Mr Lewis said it is “absolutely farcical that people in Belfast, Ballymena, Portrush, Derry/Londonderry, may not be able to get their chilled meats from across Great Britain, like they always have done.”

Mr Lewis insisted “there are no risks to the single market”.

The EU does not allow imports of unfrozen meats into the single market from countries not following its food safety and veterinary rules.

As the North remains aligned to EU standards under the Northern Ireland protocol, to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, British firms face a ban on selling the likes of sausages to the region.

A post-Brexit grace period allowing trade to continue as it had when the UK was in the EU was due to expire on June 30th. London has asked for an extension until the end of September.